India – capturing the vanishing magic

Katakali

If i have to think of the most happy and memorable travel moments in my life up to now – in my mind immediately emerges the great sensation, what it felt like to be in India for the first time ! This is where i always dreamed to go , but didn’t dare to (we all know – „the dark India“.. ) So far i can remember, India (despite of being dark) has always been the most alluring place, this very distant spiritual holly land of mysterious unknown rituals , enchanting music and unique dance , exotic people, colors and smells seemed so untenable  I grew up with Kipling’s jungle book, hence still as a kid i wanted to go there, vividly imagining lots of animals and of course tigers there – a naive , but beautiful , unfortunately very dated idea of the Indian jungle!

So not to make the story very long , i’ll jump right to , when i have finally realized that dream . Right to that blissful moment , when my friend and i dressed fairly inadequate , and absolutely not prepared for the culture shock we were about to experience – found ourselves , facing for the first time , the south Indian colorful loud and divine chaos . This hugely impressive chaos somehow had an invisible (for us back than) structure , and seemed quite harmless to be part of it ! I ‘ll never forget, that firs feeling of the Indian tropical air – it was hot , moist and sticky, with all kinds of different smells and fumes (some exotic some not at all) – it felt like submerging in some kind of a hot gelatin . The buzzing noise from all those strange voices , the constant horns and of course , the always present crows (i miss this) – was also a part of this air somehow. This was totally overwhelming key moment for us , it was like being teleported to a new world full of wonder and we dived in to it.

Here is good to mention, that we had a very clear idea , why we are undertaking that journey . It was a “mission”, to find out the real status of ancient Hindu cultural traditions , and being animal rights activists, we also wanted to know what is left from India’s wild life , and capture it in pictures . This was our personal cultural project – just for the arts sake .

After we got more familiar, and used to some of the many new things , emotions and excitement settled , and we were able to see all more clear . We noticed that , no matter how colorful it might be , the things we were after , are not an easy task at all , they were hidden , distant , and very limited actually . The globalization , the persistence of the European culture , deforestation , the growing over population and development in general , visibly had already taken its toll . Of course we knew , even a bit faded , the true magic of India , is there somewhere and still holds on , waiting to be found . We went on a quest , asking our way around , and so step by step discovered a lot of what we were looking for . Being often on the beaten track , traveling was hard , even though we are vegans , we had difficulty with finding something to eat , because of the food safety , but this could’t kill our enthusiasm ! We were rewarded with the privilege and luck to meet unbelievable artists , very spiritual and mystical holly people and with incredible and moving animal encounters full of excitement and joy . All that were the happiest and most inspiring unforgivable moments for both of us – and shared happy moments are always happier !

Meanwhile , being in south Asia anyway , we even somehow managed to involve ourselves in exiting monkey rescue and flew from India to Borneo , and than back , which was a bit over the top . There we witnessed , the tragedy of orangutans (which ironically on local language means “the forest men” – orang=man , utan=forest in Malayalam) , being on the edge of disappearance , thank to the forest fires clearing the jungle for palm oil plantations . We saw the once so diverse wildlife in total decline , same as India , were we experienced the jungle as a almost empty quiet place , and big trucks racing through its very heart .. I know this is not the thing one is willing to hear , but for me , to see the hole picture , without being censured , makes the travel worth it as such .

Probably i can write a whole book about this adventures , but to cut the story short – apart of the often heavy conditions , we absolutely fulfilled what we aimed for that trip ! India its not an easy destination – definitely not everybody’s cup of tea , but its not that dark at all . It transformed us irreversibly for good , has given us a lot and even if we don’t come back – will be a part of us forever !

Reisejahr: Winter 2007

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